An enthralling first qualifying session of the 2012 MotoGP™ season saw Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) take pole position for the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar, as the Spanish rider beat reigning World Champion Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) to the fastest lap by 0.221s on Saturday evening.
Lorenzo's time of 1'54.634 gave him the edge over Stoner as the pair swapped the lead more than once in the final few minutes of the one-hour session, as the appetite was well and truly whetted for the first 1000cc race.
The battle for pole was not the only thing which caught the attention as Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) put in his best-ever MotoGP qualifying display to seal the final front-row spot with the third best lap. Crutchlow's time of 1'55.022 left him just 0.167s short of Stoner in second, and made it two Yamaha M1 machines on the front row.
Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) set the fourth-fastest time before a crash five minutes from the end of qualifying brought his session to a premature close, and Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) was the highest placing Desmosedici in fifth. Andrea Dovizioso will start his first race for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team from the second row after going sixth fastest in QP.
Heading up the third row will be Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), who will be accompanied by Héctor Barberá (Pramac Racing) and rookie Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda). Karel Abraham (Cardion ab Motoracing) had a crash at the very end of the session but had already qualified in 10th place, and the Czech rider will have Álvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) for company on row four.
Colin Edwards (NGM Mobile Forward Racing Team) took the honour of qualifying as the fastest CRT machine in 13th, 0.831s behind Rossi, with Power Electronics Aspar duo Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaró getting onto the fifth row with the American. The Frenchman escaped a crash 20 minutes from the end unharmed.
In Moto2™ Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock) continued his excellent weekend by securing pole position for the opening race of the Championship. The Swiss rider topped qualifying with a time of 2'00.187, after being fastest in all three preceding practice runs.
Lüthi managed to see off the challenge of Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) by a margin of just 0.072s as the Spaniard took second spot in the session, with Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) completing the front row in a time of 2'00.296 as fractionally more than a tenth of a second separated the top three.
Pol Espargaró (Pons 40 HP Tuenti) posted the fourth fastest time of the 45-minute session, ahead of Mike di Meglio (S/Master Speed Up) and Max Neukirchner (Kiefer Racing), all of whom will start from row two.
Clocking in seventh quickest was Esteve Rabat (Pons 40 HP Tuenti), and Claudio Corti (Italtrans Racing Team) recovered from an early fall in which he appeared to have hurt a hand to qualify in eighth position. Takaaki Nakagami (Italtrans Racing Team) will accompany his team-mate on the third row.
Sandro Cortese (Red Bull KTM Ajo) took the first ever Moto3™ pole position after posting the fastest lap at the very end of the category's qualifying run. The German rider's final effort of 2'08.188 was enough to seal prime position on the grid by a margin of just 0.016s ahead of Maverick Viñales (Blusens Avintia).
Spanish rider Viñales – whose top time from FP2 was faster than Cortese's pole – looked set to take first position on the timesheet with his time of 2'08.204 until Cortese's late salvo, with Louis Rossi (Racing Team Germany) completing the front row following a strong session.
Luis Salom (RW Racing GP) led the session towards the end but eventually had to settle for fourth position, and the Spaniard will be joined on the second row by Niklas Ajo (TT Motion Events Racing) and rookie Romano Fenati (Team Italia FMI).
Starting the season-opening race from the third row will be Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Airasia-SIC-Ajo), Miguel Oliveira (Estrella Galicia 0'0) and another debutant Arthur Sissis (Red Bull KTM Ajo).
Both the Moto3 and Moto2 classes later went out on track to run their warm up sessions in preparation for Sunday's races.